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Published On: Sun, Sep 28th, 2014

Tenement rates: Examining FCTA’s move to halt collection by area councils

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The Minister of state for the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Oloye Olajumoke Akinjide

The Minister of state for the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Oloye Olajumoke Akinjide

By Stanley Onyekwere

Rising from its weekly Executive Committee (EXCO) meeting, on Monday, the Minister of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Senator Bala Mohammed, warned chairmen of the Territory’s six area councils, to forthwith stop illegal collection of tenement rates or any other such taxes from owners of property and businesses within their respective domains.

This move, the minister said was to ensure that Abuja residents not double taxed, in the process, stressing that area councils have no reason to collect such rates, as they run the markets, parking facilities and the motor parks in the domains, where they generate revenue.

Specifically, the minister Mohammed issued a directive to the authorities of Abuja Municipal Area Council (AMAC) to immediately stop illegal collection of tenement rates or any other such taxes from the residents.

Mohammed, who frowned at the trend, directed that the FCT permanent secretary should write to the chairman of AMAC, to ensure that all illegal the rates-be it tenement, shop or whatever should not be collected by anybody on behalf of the council.

Briefing newsmen in Abuja, last week, after the meeting, the minister, who spoke through the Coordinator of the Abuja Metropolitan Management Council (AMMC), Reuben Okoya, stressed that the directive also extends to other chairmen of other area councils in the FCT.

According to him, residents of the Territory have suffered from such illegal tax charges and collections by officials claiming to representatives of the various councils.

He revealed that there are complains about certain people claiming to be AMAC representatives going around collecting tenement rates ranging from N40,000 to N100,000  per house in the city.

Warning that the FCT Administration we would no longer condone such illegal collections, the minister pointed out that anybody caught collecting such rates, would be dealt with, and the full wrath of the law will be brought on their heads.

 “In some cases you find touts going around collecting rates illegally, but it beholds on the FCT Administration to work in collaboration with security agencies to stop such and arrest people that are involved into such activities.

“It was brought to the notice of FCT, and after discussing it extensively, the minister then directed that permanent secretary should write to the chairman of AMAC, to ensure that no illegal rates should be collected by anybody on behalf of the council.

“Tenement rates have their own ways of being collected by the FCT administration, so the minister was very unhappy, and so were the entire executive committee.

“And what the committee did was to write to AMAC chair, to say any rate you are collecting that is not backed by law, stop it; but any rates that you are collecting legally, you should continue.

“The minister said that, from now on, he is going to take up himself to make sure rates that paid in the FCT are legal rates, not illegal rates; so, we encourage citizens to ensure that they pay their rates to the right people, and as at when due,” Okoya quoted the minister.

Ultimately, he said by the end of last week the letter ought to have gotten to the AMAC chairman, who is expected to raise an enforcement team, to make sure such illegal collections are immediately stopped forthwith and accordingly.

Furthermore, the minister argued that the FCT area councils get their normal allocation every month, still the FCTA  also gives back 10 % of the revenue it generate internally to the councils.

“FCT is the only territory where the minister, being the governor does not keep any part of the councils’ revenue, rather he pays to them.

“If the councils are saying that if they don’t collect some rates that they would die, then we have think about it twice,” he stressed.

He therefore advised shop owners or traders to always investigate and ensure that whatever rates or whoever they are paying to is right or wrong.

“If you are a shop owner or trader, when somebody comes to collect money from you, you ought to stop and find out who that person is, by asking for necessary identification, or at least go to the respective area council’s secretariat, and pay your rates and collect your receipts,” he said.

But, without pointing the fingers directly to anyone, both the FCTA and other relevant authorities cannot continue claiming ignorance over the existence of such illegal charges amongst others that perpetually subject the residents of the Territory to a lot of exploitations and nightmarish experiences in the hands illegal agents.

Also, the FCT administration can’t sit and lay accusations here and there, as there is no need apportioning blame to any arm of the government, because they are all part of the whole system.

Be that as it may, there is no doubt that the area councils may not act accordingly, to stop milking the helpless people of the FCT, under the disguise of  boosting their internally generated revenue base, hence the need to follow up this directive, and even extend it to other government establishments.

Certainly, what this directive presupposes is that irrespective of how good their (council chairmen) motive for the collection of various taxes from property owners and businesses in their domains, they must seek legal appropriate legal backing for whatever public interest they may want to pursue.

And as it stands, the whole idea of this show of concern would go a long way towards ensuring that citizens are not forced to continue paying rates that they are not supposed to pay ( charges not backed by the law), especially when they are paying to people claiming to be representatives of the various councils.

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